Since my youth, I have grown up around handcrafted aged tea. My father, a pu-erh enthusiast who has been sourcing tea for the last 16 years, would bring a tea cake of Laobanzhang pu-erh (think, grand cru of the tea world) home and share it around the family table. He would enthusiastically describe how sweet the tea is and its incredible effect on his body and energy level. Unfortunately, my untrained palate could not discern its quality at the time.
It wasn't until I experienced the two crucial moments that I began to slowly develop my palate for aged tea: changing my brewing method to gongfu style using a Gaiwan and tasting my "gateway aged teas."
Gaiwan used to be "my dad's teaware" in my mind for a long time. And my go-to used to be a simple tea strainer because it was easier. But once I learned how to use a Gaiwan, there was no going back. There's something intimate about brewing tea with a Gaiwan that helps you understand and appreciate the tea even more. It's like developing a direct relationship with tea without an intermediary. Oh, I didn't realize this tea has beautiful fruit notes because of its bitterness. Let me try reducing the brewing time next time. You learn about how teas react to different environments.
And as I experimented with different types of tea using my newly learned brewing method, I began to experience "aha" moments through certain teas. Oh, that's the sweetness my dad's always talked about! This tea does have a long-lasting aftertaste! These "gateway aged teas" allowed me to expand my tea vocabulary and palate to finally understand why the Laobanzhang pu-erh my dad had shared was so special.
Pu-erh enthusiasts frequently brag and say, "I drink pu-erh tea" as a sign of connoisseurship as this famous aged tea can be a hard nut to crack for many tea drinkers. As someone who went from "I don't get it" to "my favorite tea is aged tea," I want to help share this world of aged tea with you step-by-step so that you can also immerse yourself in this eye-opening world of tea connoisseurship. I would love all of you to enjoy the subtle flavor differences across multiple infusions and appreciate the balance between the slight bitterness in taste and the richness in the natural aroma. Because life is too short to drink bad tea.
Ashley, Founder & CEO
Certified Tea Sommelier